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Helpful tips for parenting special needs children

Updated on June 15, 2011

My previous job was that of working with disabled children for over 26 years. And in those years of service I would like to give some helpful tips that I have learned for new parents of special needs children. I have never personally parented a disabled child, but I "have" had the privilege of foster caring a special needs child for 4 years. Even though I have never parented a disabled child, I "am" the parent of an adult who was "labeled learning disabled" by her primary school at the time.

This was all a result of the testing that was done. Being told what she would never do only gave more determination to us the parents to not settle for the prognosis that was given. Personally I refused to place a label on her and refused to hear the label come out of her mouth because a person becomes what they think speak and believe. To make a long story short she went from being labeled learning disabled in grade school to becoming most improved by the time she was in middle school . She received an award for her well deserved efforts .

I know that every child is different and special needs children may range from mild to severe because I have worked with them on all levels. No matter how much or how little the accomplishment, the children respond with a sense of accomplishment when praised and rewarded with love.

For people who are looking at a disabled child from the outside and not being associated with them on a personal level may find it very easy to feel sorry for these children, but feeling sorry will only hinder the potential of the child and stop them from being everything that they can be.

When I first started working with these precious children I felt sorry for them, but as time progressed I began to see them for who they were and what they had to offer.Their gifts talents and abilities superseded their disability and I no longer saw them as disabled, but I had to remind myself, not to make too many demands on them, because they "were" disabled.

Take out time for yourself

What I have observed in the 26 years of working with special-needs children and their parents is the guilt that follows the parent because of the child being the way that they are. Because of this guilt the parent goes above and beyond the natural duties of a parent. This usually leads to the neglect of other children who may be in the home, a spouse and even burnout.

The parent of a special needs child must take out time for themselves by maybe going on a vacation, or doing whatever is necessary for relaxation and replenishment. Giving and giving is great but if nothing is given back to the giver, they may soon run out of gas and find themselves unable to do anything productive. Many parents find it helpful to network with other parents with special-needs children because they are then less likely to feel isolated and alone.

Do not put total trust in therapy only

I am grateful today for medical science and all of the accomplishments that have been made to help mankind, but in spite of these breakthroughs they still do not have all the answers. One should even get more than one opinion and not just settle for the first solution presented. To even go a little further a parent is more familiar with their child than a stranger.

Many times a physician who is inexperienced with working with a special needs child may shy away and even be somewhat fearful.This is a good opportunity for the parent to step in and show there is no reason to be afraid. Also putting all trust in therapy can lead to disappointment if it does not work. Remain optimistic while balancing out the situation at hand.

Adapt to your child's world

Not being able to adapt to your child's world can place many demands on them that they are not capable of fulfilling. This may lead to frustration for both parties. Breaking up the goal into smaller objectives can increase the percentage that the child will be able to succeed. To balance this out the child should also receive some socialization in the community. In my experience there were many people that did not understand the children I worked with and at times they were rude. But more than not there were a lot of nice people in the community that would volunteer their services, etc.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago from Australia

      Hi, please also sign my petition to help prevent teachers bullying children in preschools. This is a big problem especially for children with special needs. Teachers are often unqualified and use bullying tactics to get children to behave the way that they want...this needs to change.

    • HAexpressions profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank you Clementine8!

    • profile image


      6 years ago from Australia

      What a nice article. I love the way you say people often feel sorry for people with special needs but this only hinders them. After working as a teacher and having many children in my classes with various abilities I have found every child has very different gifts to share. Some children are good and writing, some children great at climbing, some children are kind etc.. If we look at a child as disabled because they can not talk yet we are only looking at the "can nots" and not the cans. I had a child who was labelled autistic who was the kindest child I have come across, he had no language or social skills but he could write every letter of the alphabet by age 2 and had a smile that made me happy all day. When I first started at the centre he was introduced as ".....and hes autistic." It upset me that no-one mentioned this child's gifts, just his label. My brother was labelled aspergers as a child and even told he was border line retarded. This affected his whole life. He wanted to go to Uni but everyone said he should get a trade job. He use to always shout "IM NOT Aspergers". He's at Uni now in his 3rd year of a science degree in which he gets all A's.

    • HAexpressions profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank You Bradysmom!

    • Bradysmom profile image


      6 years ago from Subburbs of Denver, Colorado

      Great article. I love hearing from other parents (and special people) of disabled kids. It really helps me to read the experiences of others and apply it in my own life.

    • HAexpressions profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank you MelissaBarrett!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 

      7 years ago from United States

      I like the way you use your personal experience to give advice to parents. I'd like to hear more about ways parents can balance the needs of their special needs kids and also more about how to decide if the therapy is working.

    • MelissaBarrett profile image

      Melissa Barrett 

      7 years ago

      Very nice article. Thank you for sharing your expertise!


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